October 25, 1986.
After 48 years, the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons hoisted the UAAP Men’s Basketball crown for the first time.
“We did it boys! The impossible dream has finally been realized,” exclaimed then-head coach Joe Lipa.
Up to this day, it remains the only men’s basketball trophy inside of UP’s campus in Diliman.
For 11,721 days, the community lived a long nightmare. There were only a few highs – mediocre ones compared to the feats achieved by the bigger programs.
Still, these were the moments that Bo Perasol wanted his team to experience over the last three years.
“If you wanna grow, you have to undergo these kinds of games – yung mga knockout games, all for the marbles-type of games,” Perasol shared during the final game of his first season with the Maroons. “Dun mo nage-gain yung confidence mo. Lahat naman ng teams, you have to overcome those high pressure games. Eh kami, yung simpleng laro lang, pagdating sa end game, bumabagsak kami.
“Kelangan merong pinanghuhugutan. They have to remember something – this experience that will say, ‘Hey, we have done this.’”
And it was all worth it.
In a scene made for movies, UP’s super senior Paul Desiderio overcame his struggles, knocking down the game-winner over the school’s public enemy number one Sean Manganti to end the Fighting Maroons’ 32-year Finals drought.
It was a dream 11,722 days in the making – a dream of every Isko and Iska out there.
“Alam mo before all of this, napakaraming magagandang articles dito na, that says how this team had united a fractured community and all of that. Parang ang burden kasi is not just about winning the game. It’s all about making an impact to a community that is very hungry for winning,” shared Perasol, who was trying to fight off tears after the game.
“Alam mo na for thirty years ay butt of jokes, walang bragging right na ‘malakas ang team namin sa basketball.’
“In any aspect of our society, merong taga-UP na nasa politics, business, judiciary and all of that, pero pagdating sa basketball, talagang kulelat si UP. Kaya kung makikita mo, nagkakaroon sila ngayon ng isang bragging right. At the same time, a moment that could unite them in a way na pwede tayong magsama-sama dito kahit magkakaiba tayo ng paniniwala sa pulitika or kahit saan man,” he added.
With this dream already fulfilled, the Fighting Maroons are making a bigger dream – a dream Lipa called impossible. Now that they are up there, they want to knock off the current kings: the Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles.
Though this mountain is much higher than any of the other obstacles they had to climb, the only thing that matters for them right now is that they believe they can do it.
“No basketball aficionado in his right mind would probably give us a good chance against Ateneo, but we would want that. We would want the tag that UP doesn’t stand a chance against Ateneo,” Perasol pointed out.
“There is something that we do that’s going to keep us going forward, looking to that championship game against Ateneo. We know that we could take something from that, the courage, the resilience, our feeling that we need to keep moving,” he added.
“We need to keep fighting, no matter what the odds are.”